Metal service center leaders call for change

September 6, 2012

On Aug. 28 the Central States chapter of the Metals Service Center Institute (MSCI) held its 2012 Manufacturing Summit, "Closing the Divide Between Jobs, Policy and Growth," in Oakbrook, Ill. The event was moderated by MSCI President and CEO Bob Weidner III and hosted by MSCI chapter President Terry Minogue, vice president of Lapham-Hickey Steel Corp.

The summit was an opportunity for national and local manufacturing leaders, policy experts, employees, and political candidates to discuss the most pressing issues facing the manufacturing and metals services sectors.

Participants were William M. Hickey, president of Lapham-Hickey Steel Corp.; C. Davis Nelsen II, chairman and CEO of Nelsen Steel Co. LP; Michael F. Petersen, president of Petersen Aluminum Corp.; and Bert Miller, president of Phoenix Closures.

Illinois politicians and candidates attending or represented at the event were Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh; Republican candidates for U.S. Congress Richard L. Grabowski and Brian Woodworth; Democratic candidates for U.S. Congress Leslie Coolidge and Dennis Anderson; Kitty Weiner, representing Republican U.S. Rep. Peter J. Roskam; Republican State Sen. Ron Sandack; and Republican State Reps. Christopher Nybo and Robert W. Pritchard.

While questions for the panel centered on MSCI's policy agenda, which includes positions on energy, trade, tax, and regulation, panelists highlighted the importance of strong leadership and decisive action to support steady growth in the manufacturing industry.

"There are so many things we can do," said Hickey, "but we need someone with a vision to stand up and do it. We don't have that. Leadership is someone who will stand up and pass a budget."

Nelsen agreed: "We have a leadership vacuum in this country. Leaders who are leading with their heads rather than their hearts perpetuate the status quo instead of improving on it. They are avoiding the conflict that doing the right thing can bring about. Politicians are trying to preserve what they have rather than do their job."

"How do you run a plant or make investment or hiring decisions with constantly changing policy?" asked Petersen. "Leaders [should be] willing to take on the big problems and get our financial house in order."

This event was the second of 11 being held across the country this year. Other host cities include Cincinnati, Kansas City, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Buffalo, and Los Angeles.

"This is a critical election year," added Weidner. "It's important to give our members, their employees, and communities the opportunity to learn more about the concerns of our industry — and to share that information with candidates, too. There are real issues facing the manufacturing sector, which will have real costs for employers and employees alike. If we're not part of the solution, we are part of the problem."

MSCI, based in Rolling Meadows, Ill., has more than 400 metal service center members operating from more than 1,500 locations worldwide.

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